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New Member Spotlight: Dell Technologies

Deborah Stokes

UIDP welcomes Dell Technologies back as a UIDP member organization. Dell Technologies is dedicated to open innovation and partnership for research collaboration, and is actively developing emerging technologies in AI, data management, and 5G security. UIDP spoke with Deborah Stokes, who leads Dell Technologies’ external research activities, about the company’s goals for membership in UIDP. Deb will also kick off the metrics discussion at this month’s UIDP Thirsty Thursday Networking hour. 

UIDP: What is Dell Technologies hoping to gain from its membership with UIDP this year?  

Stokes: We believe in an open, global innovation process at Dell Technologies so connecting with a like-minded external ecosystem is critical to our innovation efforts. With that said, one of the things that has always been fascinating about UIDP is the breadth and the depth of its participants, people who are thinking about next generation technologies and working on it on a day-to-day basis, between both the industrial and academic worlds. The fact that it’s becoming more global and is reaching a broader scope of both industry and university representatives is important to us. Having access to a number of potential partners—and yes, potential customers as well—helps us identify how we can complement what our customers are doing from an innovation perspective. 

UIDP: What are some of the current challenges that Dell is facing in development of some of these partnerships? 

Stokes: I would say it’s not necessarily a challenge but an opportunity that was brought to life over the past year. Our instinct as human beings is to work with those who are right in our back yard, but we’ve learned that you don’t have to be in each other’s geographical locations to have really great collaboration. You can have access to all of this deep technical knowledge anywhere in STEM through the magic of Zoom. So one of the challenges that I think we’ve been able to successfully overcome is that you don’t have to do things just because you can drive down the road or you can get on an airplane and fly somewhere. We’ve actually proven that it is possible to have great collaborations over great distances.  

UIDP: Please share any innovative ways that Dell is making an impact on U-I interactions.  

Stokes: One of the things that Dell Technologies did early on in the COVID-19 crisis was help many organizations quickly shift to work from home. Everybody thinks of Dell as a PC company, but Dell is so much broader than that these days—it’s also the infrastructure, it’s the servers, it’s the storage…it’s everything that you need to facilitate and support a hybrid workforce. We were able to work with a number of our customers, including academic institutions, to help them shift to a virtual environment pretty quickly. If you’d like to know more, check out this link.  

Recently, we were also able to implement an absolutely fabulous project in neurohaptic communications (NHC) technology, working with the University of Connecticut and a local fire department. A Dell systems engineer had an idea around how to incorporate sensory technology into a firefighter’s uniform to enable the firefighter to be able to navigate a burning building where visibility is compromised in a very volatile environment, using the NHC technology developed at UConn, and of course Dell equipment. We’ve actually started a pilot with the city’s fire department to see this technology at work. It’s an example of Dell’s purpose, to create the technology that drives human progress. 

UIDP: Can you tell us about a particularly successful U-I project or partnership? 

Stokes: Dell has seen lots of value from our work with the MIT Media Lab for more than 10 years now. Key to generating this value was getting an effective technical team in place—the right people who can participate and generate really good ideas. For our user experience design group, we find that the Media Lab approach to thinking about technology in new and novel ways is a definite benefit. The fact that we have had nuggets of knowledge that have turned into intellectual property for Dell is a big win for us there.  

UIDP: Would you like to share something about Dell that you wish people knew and that’s relevant to your external collaborations?   

Stokes: Yes! Dell just announced that it’s going into the telecommunications business. Dell’s telecommunications unit will provide telecommunications network solutions and infrastructure. Dell is building an open standards-based, cloud-native telecom ecosystem using new infrastructure and tying in key academic and industry partners—including UIDP members Intel and VMware—and a dedicated 5G innovation lab. We saw a need for an end-to-end service solutions provider, particularly in the U.S., and feel that we’re uniquely positioned to fill that gap. We really see where this as a long-term commitment and opportunity, both for Dell and for our customers and partners, to work together, to provide the solutions and the technology that’s going to foster digital inclusion and further human progress.